Baytna Baytak: Heart-warming initiative houses Lebanon's medics for free
A project to provide free housing for frontline healthcare workers battling Covid-19 in Lebanon was launched this week by a group of Lebanese activists, who took matters into their own hands in the absence of reliable state services and the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The Baytna Baytak – Our house is your house – initiative is helping dozens of Lebanese medics find free accommodation that is close to their place of work to save them from long commutes and to help them self-isolate away from family members.
Taymour Jreissati, one of the founders of Baytna Baytak, told The New Arab that the project took off after individual citizens began offering vacant properties to healthcare workers when their needs for housing became apparent.
"The idea first came when I was talking to a friend who had a couple of free apartments on Airbnb, which he wanted to offer," Jreissati said.
"From there, we thought that there might be a lot of people like him. So we started sending messages through social media and we realised that there were many medical staff and Covid-19 helpers in need of places to stay."
In the first week of the project, dozens of properties were made available to Lebanon's health workers by citizens seeking to help the country's efforts in fighting the virus.
"In a week, we managed to ensure more than 100 housing locations to distribute and offer to medical professionals who need to isolate themselves to keep their families safe and of course to reduce the spread in case of contamination," Jreissati said.
The homes offered to medical staff through Baytna Baytak were located in several cities across the country, including Beirut, Metn, Kesserwan, Jbeil and other locations in the south.
While the project has already seen dozens of health workers take up free accommodation, it has also seen a flood of other forms of contributions from citizens wanting to help in any way they can.
"So far 66 medical professionals have been safely housed in these homes generously offered, cleaned and, most importantly, sanitised," Jreissati said.
"People are still offering homes and help to many doctors, nurses, and medical staff are in need for this and so we are still working on allocating the remaining houses," he added.
"The response from volunteers offering their homes has been very fast and especially very generous. We have received more help than was expected - whether in housing, financing, cleaning, and of course sanitation or any other action needed to help and contribute in the housing and safety of the medical professionals."
The Covid-19 pandemic is the latest crisis to hit Lebanon, a country already reeling from a financial meltdown and months of widespread public discontent.
On Saturday, the total number of virus cases rose to 412 after the health ministry confirmed 21 new cases. Eight deaths from Covid-19 have been recorded so far.
Read also: Lebanon will need more than social distancing and lockdown to beat coronavirus
For Jreissati, citizens coming together to help medical workers find accommodation for their own safety only further highlights the weakness of the state and the potency of citizen activism.
"Before this pandemic, people were already brought together by the revolution, which started on October 17," he told The New Arab. "And from that, we had already realised that the people had to help the people and unfortunately not count on the so-called government."
The overwhelming response to the Baytna Baytak initiative has cast a glimmer of hope amid the shadows of Lebanon's current climate.
"This initiative has grown so fast in less than a week thanks to the generosity of the people and their humanity which gave us more hope and more faith to go through these very difficult times," Jreissati said.
"Lebanese people [have] come together even stronger and more united to fight this crisis. This has showed us that the health and safety of the people always comes first whatever the circumstances, and when you see firsthand the will and the generosity of the Lebanese it brings them together even more."
Sarah Khalil is a journalist with The New Arab.
Follow her on Twitter: @skhalil1984